Marchment is a wanted man. Indeed, many have wanted him, which accounts for his odyssey through the NHL as much as the lack of nuance in his game does. "He plays with a lot of guts and determination," says Edmonton general manager Glen Sather. "I didn't agree with all the suspensions, but one of the reasons I had to trade him is that any time an opponent got hurt, he'd get suspended. That was hurting the team."
Even Dallas general manager Bob Gainey, who decries Marchment's excesses—"Rugged hockey means you challenge your competitor, not disable your competitor"—considers Marchment a strong, productive player. Therein lies the moral vacuum at hockey's core. The darkness in Marchment's play that might make him repugnant as an opponent makes him valued as a teammate. He might stick out his leg against them, the thinking goes, but he will stick out his neck for us.
"I've seen it. After the game, after Marchment has taken another run at somebody on your team, you're in the locker room, and some guy says, 'That s.o.b.,' and somebody else pipes up, 'Nah, I played with him. He's a helluva guy,' " says Sharks right wing Tony Granato. "Players talk, and word gets around that he's O.K."
Not only does everyone in the NHL know Marchment, but he also seems to know everyone. He looked around at an NHL Players' Association meeting in Toronto during the 1994 lockout and recognized almost all of the 200 players in the room. "And I'd only played for three teams by then," Marchment says. When Marchment struck his head on an open penalty-box door and went into convulsions on the ice in Dallas during the 1997 playoffs, Stars defenseman Craig Ludwig, who had met him through Chicago Blackhawks blueliner Chris Chelios, took Marchment's clothes from the arena and brought them to the hospital.
Marchment inherited his nickname, Mush, and his toughness from his father, John (a.k.a. Big Mush), who recently retired as a manager for Scarborough Hydro outside Toronto. One day Big Mush was splitting some railroad ties in the backyard when the tip of his chain saw struck a chain-link fence. The saw began to dance up and down on his left arm, the blade stopping at bone before leaping up and striking elsewhere. Bryan, then eight, was dispatched to the pool shed to fetch a towel, and one of his sisters was sent to tell their mother, Jo-Anne, that Big Mush would need a ride to the hospital. When Bryan came back, his father calmly told him, no, not a white towel, a colored one, because he was bleeding. "My father never screamed or even let a tear come to his eye," Bryan says.
"Ah, it was just a chain saw, what the hell," says John, who needed about 160 stitches to close the wounds. Big Mush became the touchstone for Little Mush, the final arbiter of right and wrong. The father frequently has been critical of the son, although never once about any of the plays that got Bryan suspended. John has been more concerned about his son's occasional off-ice flare-ups, like the time after warmups when then Blackhawks coach Mike Keenan told Bryan he would not be playing in that game. Marchment stormed out of the dressing room and into the weight room, hoisted a dumbbell and heaved it through a huge mirror. Instead of suffering seven years of bad luck, Marchment received a few days suspension from Keenan. "Stuff like that plays into the coach's hands," Big Mush says. "You're supposed to use emotion on the ice." For the rest of the season Sutter, then Keenan's associate coach, would place weights in front of the stall of a player who was scratched. That was the Blackhawks' little joke.
Now Marchment, who keeps people in stitches, must hope that Colin Campbell, Burke's successor as the NHL's dean of discipline, has a sense of humor. He can't recall having a conversation with Campbell other than the one in which Campbell, then coach of the New York Rangers, yelled at him from behind the bench, something about Marchment's having no respect for his opponent. Marchment responded with a two-word witticism.
Marchment isn't about to change his game—"At this point in his career, what he does with his leg is ingrained," Sather says—but the NHL might try to change it for him. The league keeps rumbling about ratcheting up the punishment for dangerous play.
"Anything I get, I expect," says Marchment, who knows he will be watched closely. "I might whine about it a bit, but I expect it. You can't give without taking. If I go into a building and give something to a guy, I don't expect one guy to come after me. I expect every guy on that team to take advantage of me if they can."